Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Second Annual University of Birmingham Biblical Studies Postgraduate Day Conference

Wednesday, 6 June 2012 will be the second annual University of Birmingham Biblical Studies Postgraduate Day Conference. The theme is "Biblical Texts and Reception History: Retrospect and Prospects." Mark it in your calendars! We are now accepting paper proposals on related topics. See below for the call for papers:


6 June 2012 (Wednesday), 10.00am—3.30pm
European Research Institute (ERI), Ground Floor
Pritchatts Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham

The University of Birmingham, in conjunction with the Department of Theology and Religion, is pleased to announce the Second University of Birmingham Biblical Studies Day Conference, open to all Postgraduate Researchers of the University of Birmingham and other Universities.
A number of new perspectives about biblical manuscripts have come to light in the last 100 years, and this development has presented new challenges and opportunities that need to be reflected upon, especially by those in the academe. This conference aims to highlight previous researches and recent developments in the area of the studies of these biblical texts and to explore how these texts have been construed throughout the centuries, and how these affect, if they do, future studies and reception of the same. To set the parameters for discussion, we have invited two guest speakers to share their own professional journeys insofar as the biblical texts are concerned: Prof Larry Hurtado, Emeritus Professor of New Testament Language, Literature, and Theology, University of Edinburgh, and, Dr Simon Crisp, Coordinator for Translation Standards and Scholarly Editions, United Bible Societies (UBS).

SHORT PAPERS of twenty five minutes from postgraduate researchers in the UK are very much welcome, especially in the areas of (but not limited to):

Early and Later Reception of the Biblical Texts (OT/Hebrew Bible and NT)
Interpretation of Biblical Texts in Early Christianity, and in other religions
Circulation of Christian and Biblical Texts and/or their manuscripts
Recent Developments in the Study of OT/Hebrew Bibles and New Testament
Texts and Versions
Biblical and Christian Texts in light of Modern Interpretive Models (e.g., Feminist, Pentecostal, Cultural Studies, etc.)
Scriptural Exegesis in the Dead Sea Scrolls, Apocrypha & Pseudepigrapha
Pseudepigrapha and Early Christian Interpretation of Scripture

Abstracts of no more than 200 words should be sent to Edgar Ebojo on or before 1 April 2012. Successful proposals will be notified accordingly.
This conference is FREE, but pre-registration is required, for logistical purposes (please contact Georgia Michaels or Edgar Ebojo). For conference location, do visit <http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/Documents/university/edgbaston-map.pdf>; ERI is designated as G3.

If you need Edgar's or Georgia's e-mails, they are at the bottom of the announcement poster.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Augustine on "Post-Biblical" Inspiration

Most scholars would agree that a number of OT biblical books were composed by a series of compositions, compilations, supplementations, revisions, or updatings into their literary wholes as we have them today. Talmon and others have also pointed out that the Qumran sectarians believed that they were continuing the process of this inspired production of Scripture. Reading Roberts' The Old Testament Text and Versions today, I was struck by a quote from Augustine's De Civitate Dei xviii. 44 that sounded strangely parallel: "Whatever is to be found in the LXX, but is not in the Hebrew codices, the spirit preferred to say by the inspired interpreters rather than by the inspired seers." Thus, for Augustine (as with the Qumran sect), the process of Scripture formation and divine inspiration was ongoing in the "post-biblical" period (i.e., in the translation of the LXX). God gave revelation to the prophets (preserved in the Hebrew MSS), but he continued to give revelation through the translators (preserved in the Greek MSS). I just found this parallel intriguing.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

On Distinguishing "Biblical" from "Para-Biblical" Manuscripts

One key categorical question that textual critics must answer in examining the text is which MSS should be classified as "biblical," as opposed to other "non-biblical" MSS. This task (and the terminology) have been the source of extraordinary controversy in the post-Qumran era. There is obviously a sense in which the term "biblical" is anachronistic, if "biblical" is understood in the sense of the books collected within the pages of a single book (or codex), which was never the case at Qumran. Perhaps when trying to understand the perceptions of texts from the perspective of the Qumran sect, a term such as "Scripture" would be more appropriate, though this (and all other potential terms) still leaves room for some confusion. Despite its limitations, the term "biblical" is still helpful as a conscious anachronism, denoting the books which would later be included in the Hebrew "Bible." Other works are clearly independent of these "biblical" books, and thus may be called "non-biblical." Yet other books, however, are closely related to the "biblical" books and are meant to be read alongside them, so they may be called "para-biblical" texts. I will use these terms here for lack of better alternatives and to focus on one specific point, not to get distracted by terminological intricacies. While "non-biblical" texts are generally easily distinguished from "biblical" texts, the border between the "biblical" and "para-biblical" is often not well-defined, if indeed it is even affirmed. My recent reading in Sidnie White Crawford's Rewriting Scripture in Second Temple Times and Michael Stone's Ancient Judaism: New Visions and Views has prompted further consideration of this boundary, and especially prompted appreciation of two criteria that I think are extremely significant. I would like to explore these criteria a little more closely and propose a tentative sorting mechanism for distinguishing "biblical" from "para-biblical" texts.

1) Replacement

The first criterion I found particularly helpful was the distinction of whether or not a given text was intended to replace a prior "biblical" text. A standard copy of a "biblical" book would be intended to further the transmission of the prior work and replace it as a newer copy. On the other hand, the nature of some works is that they are not intended to replace the prior work, but rather to complement the prior work and be read alongside of it. This criterion, to me, seems to be the determining factor in whether a book should be considered "biblical" or "para-biblical." It may not always be easy to tell the intention of a work (or its reception in a community), but it is nevertheless important.

2) Innovation

The second criterion I found helpful was the distinction of whether or not a scribe felt free to invent new material. While some scribes carefully copied without alteration the text before them, others felt free alter the text with information culled from the text itself. For instance, some may have chosen explicitly to harmonize passages assumed to be harmonious in the prior work. Others may have rearranged material from the prior work to emphasize certain points or group thematically similar passages. Still others may have explicated clarifying information interpreted to be implicit in the text. But in each of these cases, the scribes were acting on a relatively conservative impulse, that, while permitting some changes, restricted those changes to material available (explicitly or implicitly) from the prior work. On the other hand, some scribes may have felt free to add their own inovations to the text that could not be derived from the prior text itself. They may have incorporated additional stories familiar through oral or written traditions or even composed them themselves. They may have reworked the prior text into an entirely new literary structure with its own rhetorical aims independent of those of the prior text. Each of these scribes would have engaged in textual innovation, adding material not accessible from the prior text itself.

Based on these two primary criteria, I think we can find a helpful paradigm for sorting out "biblical" texts from other types.

Innovation                                     Replacement

                              Substitutionary                         Complementary
Conservative             "biblical"                               "para-biblical"
                                    (copy)                              (e.g., excerpt texts)        

Innovative                 "biblical"                               "para-biblical"
                               (new edition)                    (e.g., rewritten Scripture)

This paradigm allows us to discern four distinct categories.

Conservative Substitutionary - These are simple copies of "biblical" books which are intended to replace other copies and do not add significant information beyond what is inferable from the prior text. They are clearly to be considered "biblical."

Innovative Substitutionary - These are copies of "biblical" books which are intended to replace other copies but also add significant information beyond what is inferable from the prior text. They are to be considered "biblical," but their innovations identify them as new editions of the prior "biblical" books. Perhaps this could provide a relatively simple definition for the otherwise difficult to define "variant editions" of "biblical" texts?

Conservative Complementary - These are new compositions intended to be read alongside the prior "biblical" texts, but which do not add significant information beyond what is inferable from the prior text. Examples might be excerpt texts, which select passages from "biblical" texts without significant modification and rearrange them for theological or referential purposes.

Innovative Complementary - These are new compositions intended to be read alongside the prior "biblical" texts and add significant information beyond what is inferable from the prior text. Examples would be those works commonly included in the category of "Rewritten Scripture" (e.g., Jubilees, Genesis Apocryphon, etc.), which are intended to be read alongside their prior "biblical" books and provide additional information.

While these criteria (as with all criteria) are bound to encounter complicating factors, I suspect they accurately describe the differences between the different classes of literature. I further suspect that these qualitative criteria lead to more helpful distinctions than a sliding scale or spectrum based primarily on quantitative criteria.